Publication details [#11423]

Wirshing, Irene. 2007. National trauma in postdictatorship Latin American literature: Chile and Argentina. Binghamton, N.Y.. 219 pp.
Publication type
Ph.D dissertation
Publication language


This dissertation examines the notion that in order for postdictatorship countries to successfully implement transitions to democracy and heal from years of oppression, they must confront the past. This study demonstrates the parallels between family dynamics and the relationship between heads of state and their nation. Though I specifically focus on the local and global forces of national trauma in Chile and Argentina, the torture, anguish, and despair depicted in these works are common in nations around the world. In chapter one, I employ the gender-based battered woman syndrome to examine the psycho-sexual dynamics between a dictator and his nation as presented in Diamela Eltit's 'The Sacred Cow' and 'The Fourth World'. Chapter two argues that it is impossible to achieve transnational democracies when nations continue to repress past trauma and as a result become victims of reenactments. Ricardo Piglia's 'The Absent City' stresses the urgent need for the retrieval of traumatic memories and their articulation in the present as the key elements to freedom from the perpetuation of tyranny. Chapters three and four advocate the power of theatre in psychic healing and in the struggle for human rights. I believe that theatre can ignite a repressed consciousness and as a result contribute to progress and change. In chapter three I explore political paranoia and the repercussions on its victims. I use the South African and Chilean Truth and Reconciliation Commissions as metaphors for Ariel Dorfman's 'Death and the Maiden's' testimonial space. I support the meeting between the victim and perpetrator in front of an audience for without public validation of past human violations, both victim and perpetrator continue to live in shame. In chapter four I demonstrate the way shame is represented in Griselda Gambaro's 'Antigona Furiosa' and the way families/nations inherit the guilt of their mothers and fathers. The fact that the Antigone legend continues to be translated, reworked, and transculturated suggests a repetition of the injustices throughout history. It is my hope that this project can contribute to liberating civilians from the ghosts of the past. (Dissertation Abstracts)